Charm, Charming, and Charmed( 9 )


Fred & Adele Astaire. ca. 1906

The term “Charm” isn’t used all that much anymore, and to be honest the last time I heard it used in day-to-day conversation was to sound purposefully formal in describing someone. So maybe there is something to the notion that it has fallen out of favor. Life’s Little Luxury, by Joseph Epstein writing in The Weekly Standard, takes a deep dive into the disappearing aspect of charm in public spaces.

If Ponce de León were alive today, viewing older billionaires with oxblood-colored hair, aging actresses with skin drawn so tight by cosmetic surgery they cannot close their eyes at night, old men whose jogging pace resembles nothing so much as that of infants just beginning to walk, former student radicals now sporting gray ponytails or topknots, no doubt the Spanish explorer would give up his legendary search for the fountain of youth and resign himself to aging as gracefully as possible. George Santayana thought it a great sin, the greatest, to set out to strangle human nature. The attempt to stay perpetually young is the most common attempt to do so in our day. It is also among the most effective ways to divest oneself of charm.

Charm will not feed the hungry, help end wars, or fight evil. I’m not sure that it qualifies as a virtue, and, as is well known, it can be used for devious ends. Yet charm does provide, among other things, a form of necessary relief from the doldrums, the drabness of everyday life. Sydney Smith, the 18th-century clergyman and himself an immensely charming man, wrote that “man could direct his ways by plain reason and support his life by tasteless food; but God has given us wit, and flavour, and brightness, and laughter, and perfumes to enliven the days of man’s pilgrimage and to charm his pained steps over the burning marle.” If your vocabulary is as limited as mine, you will have to look up marle, which turns out to be “unconsolidated sedimentary rock or soil consisting of clay and lime, formerly used as fertilizer.” What Sydney Smith was too charming to say straight out is that charm helps us to get over the crap in life, which, as anyone who has lived a respectable number of years knows, can be abundant.

In his Notebooks, the English philosopher Michael Oakeshott posited what he thought an ideal character. This, he held, was composed of integrity, the inheritance of civilization known as culture, and charm, the three joined together by piety, by which Oakeshott meant reverence for life. “Charm,” he wrote, “compensates for the lack of everything else: charm that comes from a sincere and generous spirit. Those who ignore charm & fix their appreciation upon what they consider more solid virtues are, in fact, ignoring mortality.” Since we all die, all are merely guests briefly here on earth, we have an obligation to get the most of our limited time, or so Oakeshott believed. In his reading, then, those who ignore charm are ignoring one of life’s genuine pleasures.

It’s a long piece, but do read it all and draw your own conclusion on what you may, or may not, find charming.

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Honesty in Advertising( 6 )

Focus-Group tested honesty, which is really the best kind when you think about it.

Hoping to fix that, the new campaign will roll out in states beyond Nebraska in the spring of 2019, the Nebraska Tourism Commission said in a press release.

Advertisers tested the campaign and slogan in other states earlier this year and found that it made people more likely to visit the state, and for longer, the tourism commission said. Respondents also said they got the self-deprecating humor in “Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone,” and that the humor was one of the keys to the campaign’s success.

“The new brand platform is defined by honesty,” said John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism executive director. “The overarching concept of honesty is rooted in a mindset that values transparency, purity and simplicity. A way of embracing the not-so-obvious bits of life. We feel we’ve accomplished just that.”

Nebraska seems like an okay place to live, but not sure why I would want to visit there.

South Dakota, on the other hand, I can imagine both. That they came up with this ad is a point in their favor.

You can live in South Dakota.

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The Gamble Case( 8 )

I don’t recall Gamble v. United States being discussed at Ordinary Times yet. But it touches on something about which I have long been curious and yet am not sure where I stand. Here’s Ken White’s summary of the case, from a post that actually is about something slightly different:

The issue at hand is the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which says the government can’t “for the same offence . . . .be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” Most commonly double jeopardy means that the government can’t charge you again with the same thing after they lose at trial. There’s a notorious exception to it called the “Separate Sovereigns” or “Dual Sovereignty” Doctrine. Under this doctrine, different “sovereigns” can try you for the same crime because they have separate interests in punishing the crime. This most commonly allows the federal government and a state to prosecute you for the same crime, on the theory that they have distinct interests and reasons to do so. This famously happened when the federal government prosecuted the police officers who beat Rodney King even after they were acquitted in state court.

The Dual Sovereignty Doctrine has always been controversial and somewhat unpopular. This term, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case in which it could overturn the Dual Sovereignty Doctrine. That case is Gamble v. United States — you can read all about it here, on the indispensable SCOTUSblog.

White’s explanation, further on, cites an amicus brief that claims dual prosecutions could still be done. One takeaway is that we could still prosecute state-level actors for civil rights violations. But I don’t understand all the legalities. I’ve read a couple of briefs already, and I plan on reading more as this case makes its way to being heard.

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Capitalists Clean Up( 33 )

From The Washington Post, “Even janitors have noncompetes now. Nobody is safe.” [The company is now claiming the employee was treated in this way because policies were “misapplied”, but the article is still worth a read. – Eds.]


One of the central contradictions of capitalism is that what makes it work — competition — is also what capitalists want to get rid of the most.

That’s true not only of competition between companies, but also between them and their workers. After all, the more of a threat its rivals are, and the more options its employees have, the less profitable a business will tend to be. Which, as the Financial Times reports, probably goes a long way toward explaining why a $3.4 billion behemoth like Cushman & Wakefield would bother to sue one of its former janitors, accusing her of breaking her noncompete agreement by taking a job in the same building she had been cleaning for the global real estate company but doing it for a different firm.

(We have discussed this subject before at OT. The tyranny of employer over employee continues.)
sweeping photo

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Windows & Window Blinds( 10 )

What happens when technology is good enough?

[PCs] remain essential to our functioning, and despite the advent of tablets and smartphones, PCs have resolutely hung on as our work device of choice. What has declined, however is their sales. Since 2010?—?the peak year for computer sales?—?rates have gradually eased. They are occasionally boosted by increased adoptions in emerging economies, but on the whole, rates have settled into an apparent permanent stagnation.

At first glance, this seems surprising, given that computers are 1) more central to our lives than ever, and 2) surely increasing their penetration as computer illiterate generations die off and “digital natives” come of age. However, those cannot offset the withering of the most important driver of the industry: upgrades.

People are holding on to their computers for longer. It’s not a coincidence that this is happening now. In (roughly) 2010 a crucial barrier was passed—for the first time ever, the available hardware adequately matched the tasks that were asked of it. Computers booted up with minimal fuss. They opened and saved documents instantly, and crashed increasingly rarely. Internet-based programs went from tolerably slow to satisfyingly quick. And the tag team of USB drives and good Wifi seemingly put an end to the search for better port technology.

In short, computers had become good enough.

I wrote on this a bit the other day, sort of. But if phones are settling in, PCs are settled. The last four versions of Microsoft Windows all have roughly the same hardware specs. And as with the phones, the main liability with getting a computer that’s a few years old is hardware failure rather than innovation. Like with cars, where we seen only incremental improvements over the last decades while we wait for them to be able to drive themselves.

The piece itself is on the similarities of the future to now, and I think it still holds. Self-driving cars will probably look a lot like regular car (as opposed to Jetsons flying cars and such). The next innovation for smartphones will be unnoticeable from the outside: Batteries that can run all day without question.

In the end, we’re all just waiting for Google Glass to pan out, aren’t we?

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The Herrera Case( 5 )


Clayvin Herrera, a member of the Crow tribe, shot an elk in Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming in 2014, and was charged with hunting without a license during a closed season. Herrera claims that an 1868 treaty giving the Crow the right to hunt on the “unoccupied lands of the United States” allowed him to hunt on this land.

In Herrera v. Wyoming, the Supreme Court will decide whether Wyoming’s admission to the Union or the establishment of the Big Horn National Forest abrogated the Crow’s treaty right to hunt in the forest.

To decide this case, the lower court applied a 1995 Tenth Circuit decision, Crow Tribe of Indians v. Repsis, which raised the same question. In Repsis, the Tenth Circuit held that the “Tribe’s right to hunt … was repealed by the act admitting Wyoming into the Union” and that “the creation of the Big Horn National Forest resulted in the ‘occupation’ of the land.”

The Tenth Circuit in Repsis relied on an 1896 Supreme Court case, Ward v. Race Horse, involving off-reservation hunting rights and decided against a tribe. Four years after Repsis, the Supreme Court decided another off-reservation hunting rights case, Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians, in favor of a tribe.

At issue in this case is whether Mille Lacs overruled Race Horse and Repsis.

According to Herrera, Mille Lacs indicates Repsis was decided incorrectly. Herrera argues: “Repsis unambiguously held that ‘[t]he Tribe’s right to hunt reserved in the [1868 Treaty] was repealed by the act admitting Wyoming into the Union.’ Indeed, for good measure, it declared Race Horse ‘compelling, well-reasoned, and persuasive,’ and it cited Race Horse for the proposition that the hunting right preserved in the 1868 Treaty was a ‘temporary right’ that was ‘repealed with Wyoming’s admission into the Union.’ Mille Lacs rejects that reasoning across the board, from the notion that statehood abrogates treaty hunting rights to the ‘too broad’ construct of ‘temporary’ rights.”

Herrera also argues that the establishment of the Big Horn National Forest did not abrogate the Crow’s treaty rights. Indian treaties are interpreted as the Indians would have understood them.

The Crow Tribe understood “unoccupied lands of the United States” in the 1868 Treaty to mean “land undeveloped by white settlers.” In short, prohibiting “entry or settlement” on land by creating a national forest does not cause that land to become “occupied.”

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Fantasy vs Science Fiction( 42 )

It’s often said that Star Trek is science fiction whereas Star Wars is fantasy with space ships. This sort of explains the difference:

Chiang offered a short discursus on the history of science. In his telling, the pivotal moment was the emergence of chemistry – a genuine science – from the magical discipline of alchemy. The latter involved the purification of the soul alongside the purification of a base metal into nobility, while the former was grounded in observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and systematization. Alchemy failed and chemistry prevailed, said Chiang, because the soul is of no consequence.

This corresponds to the personalism of the fantasy genre. The magician is always chosen, set apart from others as the bearer of a special destiny. For Chiang, this implies hierarchy, elitism. He contrasts this with science fiction, which he construes as egalitarian. The science of science fiction is – in theory if not in practice – available to everyone. Star Wars is instructive here. Although anyone might pick up and fire a blaster or fly a starship at light speed, only the elect can wield the Force. Star Wars is thus fantasy and not science fiction.

No fan of hierarchy, Chiang observes that fantasy stories are rarely set in post-industrial revolution settings. He explains this by way of Marx’s theory of the alienation of labor: the worker’s estrangement has the effect of erasing difference and collapsing social hierarchies into the binary of proletariat and bourgeoisie. This flattening?—?tightly yoked to the mechanical world-view?—?makes it difficult to believe in a personal universe. Everyone is ontologically equivalent in the eyes of the market. Thus fantasy stories set in capitalist societies require a greater suspension of disbelief.

I’d always thought that magic and technology (applied science) made for an interesting dynamic. It’s pretty easy to imagine that those who are powerful through magic would have a pretty natural hostility towards science, which allows the masses to accomplish many of the same things that they can do. So for it to work, you either need the magical to be very limited in number (like the Jedi) or limited in what they can actually do.

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Stormy Daniel’s Defamation Suit Tossed, Legal Fees Ordered( 2 )

One of two lawsuits by Stormy Daniels against President Donald Trump was dismissed by Order of a federal judge yesterday. The Order also requires Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees, an as-yet-to-be-determined sum that will no doubt reach 7 figures.

From the New York Times:

A federal judge on Monday dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford against President Trump, ruling that the president had not defamed her on Twitter last spring and ordering her to pay his legal fees.

The tweet in question was posted by the president on April 18, one day after Ms. Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, posted a sketch of a man who, she alleged, threatened her in 2011 as she was first considering speaking out about the affair she said she had with Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump called the sketch “a total con job,” depicting “a nonexistent man.”

In its decision, the court sided with Mr. Trump’s lawyers’ argument that the tweet included an opinion, which the president was free to express.
“The court agrees with Mr. Trump’s argument because the tweet in question constitutes ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States,” Judge S. James Otero wrote in his decision. “The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.”
While Trump’s lawyer in the defamation case, Charles Harder, declares the ruling “total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels,” the battles between the two are not over. Daniels has also filed suit to set aside a non-disclosure agreement she reportedly signed in the days before the election, regarding her affair with the president. This suit, filed prior to the defamation suit, is still pending. Trump and the company formed by his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to facilitate the NDA have sought dismissal of that suit as well, and have stated they have no intention of enforcing the agreement. They do, however, seek the return of the $130,000 paid to Daniels in exchange for her silence. Daniels and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, have refused the offer of settlement, and have avidly sought to depose the president.
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The World’s Oldest Torrent( 1 )

How a Matrix fan film helped put BitTorrent on the map:

In 2003 the ‘world wide web’ was an entirely different place than it is today.

This was especially true for streaming video. YouTube had yet to be invented, while Netflix only sent out films via the postal service.

It was at this time that a group of New Zealand friends was shooting a fan film of The Matrix, appropriately titled “The Fanimatrix.” With a limited budget of just $800, of which nearly half went into a leather jacket, they managed to complete the project in nine days.

There was a problem though. As video streaming services were still non-existent, distribution was a challenge. The makers managed to reduce the filesize down to 150MB, but even that was too expensive.

TorrentFreak spoke to the film’s ‘IT-guy’ Sebastian Kai Frost, who also had a bit part in front of the camera, in addition to being a wire-work counterweight, gopher, and light holder. According to Frost, regular centralized hosting was not an option.

Setting aside piracy an the like, it’s a very useful technology for open source and public domain. I’m a big fan of Librivox – think Project Gutenberg for audiobooks – and it’s the best way to download large numbers of stuff from their collection. I hope somebody gets it working for public domain comics, too. And Linux distros.

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Warren releases results of DNA test( 156 )

WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a DNA test that provides “strong evidence’’ she had a Native American in her family tree dating back 6 to 10 generations, an unprecedented move by one of the top possible contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.

Warren, whose claims to Native American blood have been mocked by President Trump and other Republicans, provided the test results to the Globe on Sunday in an effort to defuse questions about her ancestry that have persisted for years. She planned an elaborate rollout Monday of the results as she aimed for widespread attention.

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Take A Deep Breath( 0 )

Everything is becoming hyperpolitical…. except politics:

Some suggest that the internet and social media have replaced the older print and electronic media, but the available research does not support that suggestion. If “hundreds of millions of people” really were doing politics on social media, I would share Hanson’s worries, but such a claim overstates the number of social media activists by several orders of magnitude. A 2013 Facebook study that tracked Bing toolbar searches found that 96 percent of the users clicked on zero or one opinion column in a three-month period. In 2017 the Pew Research Center reported that less than four percent of adults consider Twitter an important source of news. (Twitter audiences are exaggerated, but for what it’s worth, President Trump reportedly has 53 million followers; Katie Perry has about twice that many.) Studies of fake news conclude that its impact is minimal.

Researchers have studied the concept of “filter bubbles” or “ideological silos.” This is the fear that the availability of politically slanted media outlets on the internet allows people to isolate themselves and consume only news and opinion consistent with their ideological preferences. Research like the Facebook study noted above fails to find much reason for concern, mainly because most Americans don’t search out any political news, let along limit themselves to ideologically congenial news. Other research finds that internet audiences are, in fact, less politically homogeneous than people’s face-to-face networks. In my personal experience I’ve concluded that the two kinds of people most likely to exist in ideological silos are academics and journalists.

In many respects the American electorate has changed surprisingly little in more than six decades. In 2016 about 10 percent of the eligible electorate made a campaign contribution—to any campaign at any level, the same figure as in the 1950s. Despite media hype about Obamamania in 2008 and Trump rallies in 2016, less than 10 percent of the eligible electorate attended any kind of campaign meeting or rally in those years, the same figure as six decades ago. As for people who knock on doors or make phone calls for campaigns, we are talking about two to three percent of the eligible electorate, the same small proportion as in the Eisenhower era.

Blessed be the normies, for their blood pressure is closer to normal.

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Internet Bill of Rights( 6 )

Kara reports Khanna’s list: … “You should have the right”:

  1. to have access to and knowledge of all collection and uses of personal data by companies;
  2. to opt-in consent to the collection of personal data by any party and to the sharing of personal data with a third party;
  3. where context appropriate and with a fair process, to obtain, correct or delete personal data controlled by any company and to have those requests honored by third parties;
  4. to have personal data secured and to be notified in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered;
  5. to move all personal data from one network to the next;
  6. to access and use the internet without internet service providers blocking, throttling, engaging in paid prioritization or otherwise unfairly favoring content, applications, services or devices;
  7. to internet service without the collection of data that is unnecessary for providing the requested service absent opt-in consent;
  8. to have access to multiple viable, affordable internet platforms, services and providers with clear and transparent pricing;
  9. not to be unfairly discriminated against or exploited based on your personal data; and
  10. to have an entity that collects your personal data have reasonable business practices and accountability to protect your privacy.

Some of these seem pretty obvious. Others, like #5, seem gratuitous, while others such as #3 depend a lot on the particulars. I recommend reading thoroughly.

Source: Nancy Pelosi’s Internet Bill of Rights – Axios

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Nikki Haley Resigns as UN Ambassador( 6 )

Nikki Haley, the United State’s Ambassador to the United Nations, has resigned. In accepting her resignation President Trump says Amb. Haley will leave her position at the end of the year.

NBC News:

In an unexpected development, President Donald Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, plans to resign, according to multiple people with knowledge of her decision.

In an Oval Office announcement alongside the ambassador, Trump told reporters that Haley came to him six months ago and said that she wanted to take a break at the end of the year.

Haley informed her staff Tuesday morning that she plans to resign. The news of Haley’s resignation was first reported by Axios.

Some context to the rampant speculation:

As for all that 2020 speculation:

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The Tiny Chip from Big China( 6 )

It seems to me that this sort of thing could be a bigger threat to world trade than Donald Trump.

Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.

During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.

This attack was something graver than the software-based incidents the world has grown accustomed to seeing. Hardware hacks are more difficult to pull off and potentially more devastating, promising the kind of long-term, stealth access that spy agencies are willing to invest millions of dollars and many years to get.

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Rescue: Kids vs Pythons( 1 )

We had a snake in our back yard the other day that fascinated our older dog. I had to pick her up and bring her back inside. That snake, however, was nothing compared to this one:


What jumps out at me is how fast that snake is for something that kills so slowly. Gotta be fast to catch them in the first place, I guess.

Also, python vs crocodile… who do you even root for here?

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Facebook Groups Changing Mission, Members Unaware( 5 )

This is a really fascinating story:

To the naked eye, thousands of users on Facebook are backing Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh.

But some of the groups that seem to advocate for his Senate confirmation — and others that defend Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in the 1980s — amassed their followers months or years before Washington’s most politically charged controversy unfolded, according to Facebook’s records, offering yet another sign that public outcry on social media isn’t exactly what it appears to be.

One Facebook group, called “Justice for Justice Kavanaugh!!!”, has more than 4,200 members, and its description says that Ford’s testimony to Congress in September had been “clearly fabricated.” But the group came into existence more than four years before that Senate hearing, Facebook’s data show. It previously acquired some of its members while acting a group that sought to defend Bill Cosby against sexual assault charges, and later, as a group that touted Trump’s proposed “space force.” {…}

The largest group purporting to support Ford, “We Believe Christine Blasey Ford (official),” boasts nearly 1,800 members. Before users there warred with each other over the Supreme Court, however, the group had posts about football under the banner “AllSports 247,” Facebook records show. At other points, its focus was the March for Our Lives and the dating app Tinder.

The Ford support group changed themes “to spark debate. Not encouraging fighting,” said Ryan McGuire, one of the people who oversees it.

Why start a new group when you can just grab someone else’s moribund one?

Some of this seems relatively innocuous (and little of it actually seems Russian, despite the ominous quote). If you sign up for one rightward group it moving on to another rightward cause is not unexpected. Signing up for a 247 sports group, on the other hand…

{Ed Note: We have enough places to talk about the virtues (or lack thereof) of the Kavanaugh candidacy. Would prefer any comments on this one be about the Facebook aspect, or Facebook groups in general. Or just Facebook.}

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San Francisco’s Housing Crisis, Exactly as Planned( 3 )

Plenty of discussion has centered around the California housing situation, especially the prices and lack of availability in the bay area since the tech explosion brought enormous wealth to one of America’s most unique cities, San Francisco. Demolishing the California Dream: How San Francisco Planned Its Own Housing Crisis by Hunter Oatman-Stanford is a detailed examination of the history of that great city, and how it came to be the go-to example of the modern housing debate.

So it’s somehow fitting our national housing crisis would peak in San Francisco, since the city was one of the first to introduce this idea of “local control,” via land-use zoning, more than 100 years ago.

San Francisco’s first street grid, encompassing 12 blocks around the nascent port, was laid out by Swiss sea captain Jean Jacques Vioget in 1839 when California was still governed by Mexico. After the community, then known as Yerba Buena, was occupied by American forces and became San Francisco in 1847, the new alcalde or mayor commissioned Jasper O’Farrell to create a new city survey. O’Farrell slightly corrected the North-South Vioget street grid, establishing regular lots around 46 yards wide with their southern boundary at a new wide boulevard called Market Street, extending perpendicular from the wharf all the way to the hills of Twin Peaks.

South of Market Street—known as SoMa today—was given a separate grid with wider blocks around 92 yards each and streets running parallel to Market and the previously established route to Mission Dolores, now named Mission Street. Though no zoning regulations were established with these surveys, SoMa’s extra-long blocks of marshland, which were less desirable than the more stable ground north of Market, eventually became the default location for industrial uses like manufacturing, wholesale distribution, and warehousing.

However, the push to legally separate noxious pollution from San Francisco’s residential and business districts led to one of the country’s earliest attempts to restrict land usage: In the 1850s, city leaders created a new licensing system for slaughterhouses that forced these businesses to relocate south of Harrison Street in SoMa, with additional regulations in 1864 pushing hog yards and slaughterhouses even further south to Islais Creek.

A few years later, in 1870, San Francisco leaders passed Order 939 Regulating Lodging Houses, also known as the Cubic Air Ordinance, at the urging of anti-Chinese labor groups that formed in response to the Gold Rush immigration boom. The new law required 500 cubic feet of space per occupant of any lodging room in the city, but it was only enforced in areas housing mostly Chinese residents, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

It is a long and detailed article. Notable is that the City of San Francisco had a unique opportunity to re-invent itself after the almost total destruction of the 1906 earthquake and fire that leveled the downtown area, and how those decisions or lack thereof set the stage for decades of controversy. It is interesting what has and hasn’t changed in how planning and zoning are implemented. Read, discuss, and decide for yourself.

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The White North and the Rust Belt( 13 )

Why doesn’t Canada have a Rust Belt. Is it race?

The more he looked, the more one big difference between Canada and the United States emerged: It came down to race. Put simply, U.S. cities tend to have large black and other non-white populations and Canadian cities do not.

American cities like Detroit gained black and other non-white residents in the early to mid 20th Century, sparking a white backlash that devastated those cities.

But Canada, which practiced more restrictive immigration and housing policies, blocked such an influx of non-white residents into their cities. So the relatively few non-white people in Canada could never create the same sort of economic impact as the larger numbers did in American cities.

“There’s no chance they ever would be because there is no city in Canada that is a majority non-white city,” Hackworth told me. “The biggest difference, it’s indelicate to put it this way, is that there’s no threat to white supremacy in Canada.”

Spitballing: I think there may be something to this. I also think that the US has the virtue of being large and having so many cities, it’s easier to simply leave a city behind because there are just as many major cities elsewhere. Replacing St Louis with Phoenix is doable. I’m not sure how Canada replaces Toronto.

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The House (Brand) That Didn’t Collapse( 3 )

In 1986, it was thought that house brands was a fad.

But easy as they are to spot, generics – bargain-priced merchandise sold without a brand name or, for the most part, advertising – are becoming harder to find.

Introduced in the mid-1970’s when inflation was high, the no-name products grew in popularity for a few years. But since 1983, their sales have steadily declined – almost to the point of extinction today in many supermarkets. Among the reasons, say analysts, are an improved economy, more price-cutting promotions by brand-name products and persistent consumer doubts about the quality of generic items.

”Generics are a much less important category than they were a few years ago,” said Michael Rourke, a vice president at the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. ”The consumer has lost interest.”

So, for the most part, have retailers. A.&P., for example, has reduced the number of different generic products it carries to less than 100 from twice that number several years ago. At the same time, it has put an increased emphasis on selling national brands. Generic products, after all, carry razor-thin markups – sometimes just a penny or two per item.

What’s really interesting is when house brands are not only competitive with name brands, but actually better. Safeway has outstanding provolone cheese for some reason. Walmart has good salsa (I know, right?). Kroger has a Mountain Dew clone, Citrus Drop, that I often prefer to Mountain Dew. Food Lion has outstanding sliced meats (packaged stuff, not deli).

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One Year Later, Country Music Remembers Las Vegas Shooting( 0 )

Country music is somewhat stereotyped as being heavy on the heartbreak and hard times, but a year removed from a Las Vegas concert turning into the worst mass shooting in American history, there has been plenty of both, along with much soul-searching.


The last possible thing I thought could be happening was somebody shooting a gun at us,” (Jason) Aldean told The Tennessean months later. “Once you figure out what’s going on … what people don’t realize is that we didn’t know where it was coming from. For all we knew he was on the ground backstage walking around mowing people down. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, hands down.”

Country music has spent a year coming to terms with the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, a massacre that, arbitrarily or not, targeted the genre’s fans and its artists. The shooting, which left more than 500 people wounded and 58 dead, strained the gun culture that has long permeated country music, with some major stars taking the once-unthinkable measure of calling for stricter firearm regulations.

Artists have coped through songs that address the tragedy head-on and, despite tightened security in the wake of the attack, some describe a new awareness of their own vulnerability every time they take the stage. At the same time, the country music industry has rallied around its fans and musicians, creating a network of mental health and support programs to help the healing process.

“Country music possesses a really powerful ability to connect not only the hearts of individual fans but our entire nation,” said Academy of Country Music CEO Pete Fisher. “I really feel like country music was the medium in which a lot of that healing was realized, but there’s more healing to go. Country music is about real people and real lives, and if something is on people’s hearts, you can trust country music is going to meet them there.”

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Wages on the Borderline( 4 )

Getting a pay rise in the border city of Lloydminster could be a matter of crossing the road.

The gap between the minimum wage in Saskatchewan and Alberta widened to almost $4 on Monday.

Minimum wage-earners in Saskatchewan will see their hourly rates rise by 10 cents from Oct. 1, when the provincial rate increases from $10.96 to $11.06.

On the same day in Alberta, the minimum wage increased by $1.40, increasing the lowest allowable wage from $13.60 to $15.

The city of Lloydminster straddles the Alberta and Saskatchewan borders, meaning some workers on the Saskatchewan side could increase their pay by almost $4 by finding work on the other side of Highway 17.

Business owners and managers on the eastern side of the border are bracing for possible impacts by increasing wages, raising prices and reducing their full-time workforce.

Some might point to this as an argument for a uniform minimum wage, but I expect it to more-or-less work itself out. Businesses on the Saskatchewan side will either raise the wages to compete with the Albertan counterparts, or they will accept having the employees who can’t get jobs on the other side.

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The Urban Mineshaft( 10 )

The Mines:

As I understand it, they treat the Bay Area as like working in the mines. They earn a multiple of the income they would in other industries with their education and skills, and have no particular ties to the region. (Some East Coasters have taken to use the expression “drain to the Bay,” complaining that friends in tech often end up leaving Boston for San Francisco.) The plan is to save money and then retire in their 30s, or take a lower-paying job in a lower-cost city and start a family there. {…}

People endure this overcrowding only when they absolutely need to for work. In a situation of extremely high production amenities (that is, a tech cluster that formed in Silicon Valley and is progressively taking over the entire Bay Area), comfort is not a priority. Joel Garreau’s The Nine Nations of North America describes people in San Francisco viewing the city as utopian for its progressive lifestyle, temperate climate, and pretty landscape. Today, the middle class views the city as a dystopia of long commutes, openly antisocial behavior, human feces on sidewalks, poor schools, and car break-ins. {…}

The mines are not a stable community. They are not intended to be a community; they’re intended to extract resources from the ground, regardless of whether these resources are tangible like oil or intangible like tech. There may be some solidarity among people who’ve had that experience when it comes to specifics about the industry (which they tend to support, viewing it as the source of their income) or maybe the occasional issue of work conditions. But it’s not the same as loyalty to the city or the region.

Source: The Mines | Pedestrian Observations

That which cannot go on forever must end, and this isn’t sustainable, but I don’t know how it ends.

More from Aaron Renn

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College Football Player Christion Ambercrombie in Critical Condition Following Brain Surgery( 0 )


Tennessee State football player Christion Abercrombie is in critical condition after head injury necessitated emergency brain surgery, according to reports.


Abercrombie, an Atlanta native, suffered a head injury late in the second quarter and was rushed to Vanderbilt Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery.

“The last I heard he was in surgery; we’ve been praying for him,” TSU coach Rod Reed said after the game. “I’m going to leave here and go there to see about him.”

“He … just kind of collapsed”

Abercrombie was listed in critical condition following the surgery, according to a TSU release
Reed was unsure about exactly when Abercrombie was injured. “It was right before the half,” Reed said. “He came to the sideline and just kind of collapsed there.”
Abercrombie was administered oxygen on the sideline before being taken away on a stretcher.

Abercombie is a sophomore transfer from Illinois. He came into the game as TSU’s second-leading tackler (13 tackles) and also had 1.5 sacks this season.

He recorded five tackles and a quarterback hurry before being injured Saturday.

The latest statement available:


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The Worst Job In The World?( 5 )

Well, the worst job that won’t put you in physical danger:

The uncomfortable reality here is that someone is going to have to look at disturbing images submitted by users to platforms like Facebook. As long as user-generated content platforms exist, some users are going to submit this kind of content, and no mainstream platform is going to want to expose its users to these images.

But there are steps that Facebook can take to make the task less traumatic. The company could warn prospective employees about the nature of the job, reduce the resolution of potentially graphic images, give employees shorter shifts, and allow employees to review less offensive content for a few hours after having to moderate the most extreme, graphic images.

Scola’s lawsuit charges that a Facebook-backed organization called the Technology Coalition published recommendations for best practices to help moderators, including limiting the amount of time employees are exposed to disturbing images, offering counseling, and permitting moderators to switch to other tasks after viewing disturbing imagery. According to Scola, Facebook failed to implement those recommendations.

I can scarcely imagine having to look at that sort of thing all day. And you can’t even use it as a “paying your dues” sort of thing for people to do for a while to prove their work ethic or whatever because the personality required to do that may not track with the personality of people you want for anything else. I guess it’s something you can outsource overseas? In any event, our household is pretty strapped right now and I’m not even sure I could do that job.

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Il Caos( 11 )

Italy Plunged Into Crisis After Introducing Universal Basic Income

Major financial-market indices in Italy plunged Friday morning after the country’s cantankerous populist coalition succeeded in pushing through a big-spending budget that includes a €780 (about $900) per month universal basic income for Italian citizens. The debt-ridden country will pay for the pledges by increasing its debt further; the new budget projects a deficit of 2.4 percent of GDP, far higher than the European Union’s 2 percent requirement. There are fears that the chaos surrounding the budget could lead to the downfall of the government.

Potentially good policy in the hands of a bad administration in suboptimal circumstances is the death of potentially good policy.

This likely has some significant EU ramifications, as well.

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Disarming the Police in Mexico( 3 )


Authorities in southern Mexico have disarmed and placed under investigation the entire police force in the resort of Acapulco, claiming the force has been infiltrated by drug gangs.

Officials in Guerrero state issued arrest warrants for two Acapulco police commanders, accusing them of homicide. It was the latest fall from grace for Acapulco, which was a favourite haunt of film stars in the 1960s but has since fallen victim to warring drug gangs.

The state government said it had taken the step because of “suspicion that the force had probably been infiltrated by criminal groups” and “the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave”.

The remaining officers were stripped of their guns, radios and bulletproof vests and taken for background checks. Law enforcement duties in the seaside city of 800,000 people will be taken over by soldiers, marines and state police.

I hadn’t realized that things had gotten so bad in Acapulco in particular. We used to take regular trips to Laredo until the violence became too much. Nowhere can afford this sort of thing, but especially not places that rely on tourism.

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From Hammurabi to .GOV: How Laws Reach the Governed( 9 )

Ignorance of the law is not a defense for breaking the law, as the old saying goes. But how exactly has the law been communicated to the people over time?

Lapham’s Quarterly has a neat way of laying it out in their Charts and Graphs section “Communications Department” entitled “How Laws Reach the Governed.”

And as for that ignorance of the law thing, even in the age of laws being published and publicly accessible on the internet and elsewhere, we still have plenty of room for further change:

But the rule that ignorance is no excuse does not work as well for crimes that are not inherently wrong. Today, there are thousands of crimes that are crimes only because they are prohibited by statute. For these types of crimes—known as “wrongs by prohibition,” or malum prohibitum—the principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse works only when a person knows what the statute requires or, at a minimum, could have discovered what the statute requires with a reasonable amount of effort.

Therein lies the problem. The criminal laws are not always easy to track down and not always easy to understand. In fact, many laws are nearly impossible to understand in all of their complexity, and the whole corpus of federal law is in fact impossible to know. There are so many crimes in the federal law books that no conscientious citizen (or even a conscientious legislator, law enforcement officer, lawyer, or judge) could possibly know what they require. This puts Americans at risk of conviction and imprisonment for the violation of laws that are impossible to find and impossible to know, effectively discarding the traditional protection that conviction requires culpability.

Some things, even with the law, never change.

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History Through The Looking Glass( 8 )

This is why we will always have the textbook battles:

History, for Zinn, is looked at from “the bottom up”: a view “of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott’s army.” Decades before we thought in such terms, Zinn provided a history for the 99 percent. Many teachers view A People’s History as an anti-textbook, a corrective to the narratives of progress dispensed by the state. This is undoubtedly true on a topical level. When learning about the Spanish-American War, students don’t read about Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill. Instead, they follow the plight of foot soldiers sweltering in the Cuban tropics, clutching their stomachs, not from Spanish bullets but from food poisoning caused by rancid meat sold to the army by Armour & Company. Such stories acquaint students with a history too often hidden and too quickly brushed aside by traditional textbooks.

But in other ways—ways that strike at the very heart of what it means to learn history as a discipline—A People’s History is closer to students’ state-approved texts than its advocates are wont to admit. Like traditional textbooks, A People’s History relies almost entirely on secondary sources, with no archival research to thicken its narrative. Like traditional textbooks, the book is naked of footnotes, thwarting inquisitive readers who seek to retrace the author’s interpretative steps. And, like students’ textbooks, when A People’s History draws on primary sources, these documents serve to prop up the main text but never provide an alternative view or open a new field of vision.

History is narrative, narrative doesn’t exist without perspective, and perspective is subjective.

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The Law & The Final Frontier( 59 )

In Star Trek, where are all the lawyers?

It’s not as though they don’t exist in the future; in fact, we do encounter them throughout the run of the Trekverse. But even though starships contain all sorts of experts and scholars and professionals, lawyers never seem to show up on the docket. And when you’re encountering new species with new systems of law on a regular basis, you’d think that would be kind of important, even from a liability standpoint. As queenofmoons puts it:

Even when we do see someone execute a feat of reasonable legal cunning—Picard buying time from the Sheliak, for instance—the fact remains that on a ship of a thousand people, expected to make first contact with new governments with little support, preparing for a legal challenge should not be whatever the busy ship’s captain and its senior mental health professional can whip up on the fly, but a recurring eventuality to prepare for.

Sure, some of this is simply down to who the show wants to spotlight—Trek shows are about their crews, and unless you’re planning to make the starship lawyer a regular in the cast, fans aren’t going to be as interested in watching them argue cases. But shouldn’t there be enough for them to do? It’s amazing watching Picard and Riker go up against each other in “Measure of a Man,” but that doesn’t change the fact that the two of them should never have needed to create this spectacle in the first place. Picard and Riker are both military guys, and their outlying interests don’t have anything to do with law, though Picard’s love of anthropology and archaeology has a few ties in that regard.

I haven’t watched all that much in the way of Star Trek, and most of what I’ve watched is DS9 which is a bit of a different bird. But this is the sort of thing that leaves me finding their universe somewhat less compelling than some of the others.

What do those of you who are fans have to say?

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Another Way to Soak The Rich?( 118 )

Adam Ozimek has one:

Whether it’s expanding educational opportunities, more infrastructure spending, wage subsidies, or tax cuts, many of the plans proposed for improving the country have one thing in common: They cost money. And even if we don’t increase spending or cut taxes, the projected growth of entitlements means we’re probably going to need more revenues in the future anyway. Therefore an important task for economists and policymakers is figuring out the most efficient places to raise tax revenues. One idea that doesn’t get enough discussion is a federal property tax on luxury homes.

Taxing luxury houses has a lot of desirable features. First, many luxury homes are located in areas with highly restrictive zoning. This means the value of the home includes economic rents, which are efficient to tax. In political and fairness terms, taxing wealth that is built on keeping out affordable housing and preventing new development certainly has its appeal.

Taxing housing wealth is also efficient compared with taxing other kinds of wealth because it’s impossible to move and difficult to hide. If you tax financial wealth, you have to worry that wealthy households will park their money in offshore accounts, thereby creating a distortionary cost and also limiting revenues. However, with rare the exception of million-dollar houseboats, you can’t park a mansion overseas. It’s also a lot harder to hide the value of a mansion because house sales data are generally publicly available. Once you know what nearby homes are selling for, combine that with a building square footage and lot size and you can get at least a general idea of what a house is worth. Valuing a home is a much simpler and more transparent task than valuing someone’s financial wealth.

What I like about it is that it’s a way to tax wealth instead of income, and it’s a way to do so where you can specifically target the wealthy. Since it would disproportionately target residents of blue states and blue areas, where real estate costs are higher, you might even get Republicans on board! (Okay, probably not.)

The main area of concern I would have is the camel’s nose. It could become like the AMT where it starts to involve more and more people, or the thresholds could shift downward to where we now have a federal property tax in addition to a income taxes and others.

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Explaining The Indian Head( 0 )

People of a certain age will remember that once upon a time, television signed off at night. They used to play the national anthem. Though it wasn’t really in use when I was young, there was also the Indian Head Test Pattern, for when something went awry. If you remember the color bars, this is what that replaced.

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Cats Like Company( 5 )

So says science:

The motivation for the study was to apply cognitive tests that have already be tried out on dogs and tortoises on cats, in order to clear up some misconceptions around cats’ bad reputation for being unsociable.

“Increasingly cat cognition research is providing evidence of their complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities,” the authors wrote in the paper. “Nonetheless, it is still common belief that cats are not especially sociable or trainable. This disconnect may be due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most motivated to work for.”

The test took 50 cats both from people’s homes and from a shelter and deprived them of food, toys, and people for a few hours. Then, researchers presented the cats with different stimuli within four categories: human socialization, food, scent, and toys.

The researchers concluded that there were no significant differences between the homed and the shelter cats, and that most cats preferred human socialization to any of the other categories. Half of the cats preferred social interaction to every other stimulus type, while only 37 percent preferred food.

My daughter has become obsessed with cats. She draws them every day at school and plays with them at night. Her teacher is begging us to get her one on her behalf. Other than that my wife and I have allergies to some (though few) cats, the main concern we have is that she likes the idea of cats more than she would like an actual cat. She liked puppies until we got one.

Good to know that if we get one they’re not psychopaths, I guess.

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Cash, Please( 1 )

Maybe we should just stop trying:

We conduct two lab experiments and one field experiment to investigate demand for consumption agency in married couples. The evidence we uncover is consistent across all three experiments. Subjects are often no better at guessing their spouse’s preferences than those of a stranger, and many subjects disregard what they believe or know about others’ preferences when assigning them a consumption bundle. This confers instrumental value to individual executive agency within the household. We indeed find significant evidence of demand for agency in all three experiments, and this demand varies with the cost and anticipated instrumental benefit of agency. But subjects often make choices incompatible with pure instrumental motives – e.g., paying for agency even when they know their partner assigned them their preferred choice. We also find female subjects to be quite willing to exert agency even though, based on survey responses, they have little executive agency within their household. We interpret this as suggestive of pent-up demand for agency, and indeed we find that female demand for agency falls as a result of an empowerment intervention.

I have taken to composing lists for everything and would like to think that I have gotten better at gifts, but maybe not.

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Humans Weren’t Meant To Live In Cities: Canada Edition( 16 )

At least, not if those cities are Toronto and Vancouver.

Even though scholars have not proved these factors are the direct causes of Vancouver and Toronto residents exhibiting the least life satisfaction of 98 communities in Canada, the researchers found they are strongly correlated to residents’ lack of a sense of well-being and belonging.

In a new study titled How Happy are Your Neighbours?, John Helliwell, Hugh Shiplett and Christopher Barrington-Leigh discovered Canadians are happier in smaller towns. “We found life to indeed be less happy in the cities,” they write. “This was despite higher incomes, lower unemployment rates and higher education in the urban areas.”

A quick glance here tells me that Winnipeg is the town for me, or maybe Hamilton.

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Manafort Reaches Plea Deal to Avoid Second Trial( 2 )

Paul Manafort, the political consultant and one-time campaign manager for then-candidate Donald Trump, has apparently reached a plea deal to avoid his second trial in Virginia.




Manafort, who was set to begin jury selection for a second federal criminal trial next Monday, was charged in a superseding criminal information in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

That charging document alleges Manafort engaged in a conspiracy involving money laundering, tax fraud, failing to report foreign bank accounts, violating rules requiring registration of foreign agents, lying and witness tampering.

Criminal informations are routinely filed in federal cases when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty. The charging document will replace an indictment that had been pending against Manafort in Washington court.

Manafort, 69, is scheduled to appear later Friday morning in court. It is not clear if he will enter his plea then, or later.

Mueller’s office, in a prepared statement said, “Additional information will be provided in the near future.”

Manafort was convicted last month at his first trial in federal court in Virginia on charges that included bank and tax fraud. He has been held in jail since June after Mueller accused him in the Washington case of trying to tamper with witnesses against him.

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Where Politics Leads Us( 2 )

We tend to underestimate self-image (as opposed to ideology or self-interest) as a factor in our politics. It turns out, we may also be underestimating the reverse:

We generally think of a person’s race or religion as being fixed — and that those parts of identity (being black, say, or evangelical Christian) drive political views. Most African-Americans vote Democratic. Most evangelical Christians vote Republican. But New York University political scientist Patrick Egan has written a new paper showing evidence that identity and politics operate in the opposite direction too — people shift the non-political parts of their identity, including ethnicity and religion, to align better with being a Democrat or a Republican.

Egan used public opinion data collected through the General Social Survey, one of the most reliable measures of Americans’ views of political and social attitudes that we have. The GSS is conducted every two years and surveys a rotating panel of respondents. Some respondents agree to follow-up interviews two years and four years after their initial interview. Egan’s data set was made up of about 3,900 people who were interviewed three times for the GSS surveys, starting either in 2006, 2008 or 2010 (so the most recent data was from people interviewed in 2010, 2012 and 2014). All three times, respondents were asked to rank themselves on a seven-point ideological scale (from “extremely liberal,” to “moderate, middle of the road,” to “extremely conservative.”) They were also asked questions about aspects of their identity that, at least in theory, are non-ideological — questions like: 1) “From what countries or part of the world did your ancestors come?” and 2) “What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?”

Source: Americans Are Shifting The Rest Of Their Identity To Match Their Politics | FiveThirtyEight

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